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Calls for boycott over Cornell Whitfield detention in Dubai

Calls for Dubai boycott over Miami bodyguard’s detention in Dubai

TreySongz’ bodyguard, Cornell Whitfield from Miami, was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment in jails notorious for human rights abuses. The celebrity bodyguard was charged with “assault” when he was forced to protect his client, rapper TreySongz, against a Jordanian man’s aggressive advances. It’s important to remember that private citizens can essentially activate the police to open criminal prosecutions and it’s up to the individual whether to close the case or not. In Cornell’s case, the complainant requested $60,000 to cancel the case but lawyers advised him not to pay, because it would likely lead to further increased demands.

His 1 year sentence was overturned during his legal appeal, but Dubai courts have failed him. He has appeared in court on three separate occasions, hoping that each one would result in his freedom to leave the Emirates. When he turned up the first time with his legal team, he was told the Jordanian complainant was “ill” and the court granted a postponement. Cornell was told to wait another miserable several weeks causing him to miss his then 2 year old son’s birthday.

Dressed and ready, Cornell and his legal team attended court again with nerves running high, not knowing whether he would be thrown in jail or released. Cornell was told “the judge is on holidays” and again, a postponement was ordered. His family was devastated. “Will he be home for Christmas, Radha?” his mother desperately asked Detained in Dubai founder, Radha Stirling. “He has another hearing scheduled for the 20th of December”, Stirlng replied, “and provided there are no more delays and the outcome is positive, it is possible he will arrive home for Christmas”.


In what felt like a concerted effort to punish Cornell with the process, when he attended court yesterday, he was told “the judge is sick”. On the spot, his lawyers pleaded with the chief judge and prosecutor, explaining the urgency of Cornell’s situation. “It’s one thing for trials to be postponed when you are a resident”, says Stirling, “but when you are a tourist living in hotels, any delay is traumatic and costly. Visitors who planned for a one week vacation, end up spending months in the country before being able to prove their innocence in court. The costs are astronomical, with local lawyer fees and hotels. Of course, most people will not be paid by their employers when they are absent and many end up fired”. After months (sometimes more than a year), they may be found innocent, but there is no compensation for the severe trauma and financial loss.

“The UAE needs to assess adopting a new strategy for dealing with tourist cases. Too many innocent travellers are being affected by outdated legal processes, corruption and wrongful allegations.

“Cornell Whitfield’s family is calling for a celebrity boycott of Dubai until her son is released. It’s simply far too dangerous for celebrities to be promoting the UAE, when so many Americans are ending up mistreated and abused by an outdated justice system.

“There is a misconception amongst some Americans that those who are arrested in Dubai have clearly violated the law but that is a reflection of the lack of US State Department travel warnings. In contrast, the UK’s media has fairly covered fifteen years worth of wrongful detentions and human rights violations in the Emirates but that’s because the British travel more to Dubai than the Americans given the proximity and cheap flights. The US though, has had less experience and media coverage of Dubai injustices. It’s imperative that American travellers familiarise themselves with the prevalence of wrongful allegations and arrests rather than taking the UAE’s media spin that their legal system is as modern as their buildings, it’s simply not the case.

“We hope that celebrities will reconsider travel plans to Dubai while Cornell Whitfield remains in the country. TreySongz and the numerous other celebrities he has protected, need to use their influence to help him come home to his family”.

Lawyers for Cornell have said the judge didn't turn up and they were left waiting outside the courtroom for hours.  They have not been given a new hearing date.




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